Jury Duty, Crime, and The Good Old Days

December 3, 2007

So, I have jury duty last Friday. I didn’t get picked but the weeding out process (I am sure there is a legal name for it but alas I don’t know what it is) took forever. Okay, six hours, but you get the idea, and they wouldn’t let us break for lunch. At least I got $6 for my trouble :)

The case was a sensitive one, which would explain 200 of us needing to be selected to get to 12 jurors. Without going into detail, basically the charge was sexual penetration of a minor. What made it more than an average trial was apparently the perpetrator is the son of a police chief or captain in a nearby city. I didn’t know the suspect or the father, but a few people did and were eliminated.

In the middle of the process, after they had given us the minimal facts stated above, the prosecuting attorney asked individuals to raise their hands if they would have problems being fair because perhaps they or a close relative had some type of abuse or assault. This went on for some time and a number of jurors were added to “the list” to be excused. When the defense attorney finally came up, one of her first questions was how many of us wanted to get up and beat the defendant as soon as we had the charges explained to us. An older gentleman with a baseball cap telling us he was a veteran stood up and said something to this effect:

I have two grandchildren and I must say this whole country has went downhill because people do not have bibles in their right hands any more and no one is obeying the laws of the bible. I don’t know if this young man is guilty but I bet he wouldn’t even be in this mess if he was reading the bible every day like we used to!

And of course the amazing thing is you could hear sighs of agreement everywhere in the room. Now I am all for whatever we need to do to make our country better, but is reading the bible going to solve criminal issues? And did our country’s supposed banning of prayers and bible study in school start the decline of western civilization?

A few google searches later and my intuition appears to be correct. According to the American Atheists website, in the 1950′s when there was a large religious uprising in the US, one which caused God to be put in the Pledge of Allegiance and “In God We Trust” was reinserted on our money, the US crime rate was on a very steep increase in comparison to the 1940′s. In 1963, when prayer and religious teaching were banned from public schools, the crime rates remained relatively similar. Since 1963 the crime rates have fluctuated greatly, but this can now not be considered due to or because of people “carrying bibles in their right hands.” The key to the entire article, of course, is that many seem to remember the “Good Old Days” as being much better than they really were, and thinking that it must have been that way because religion was required, and now the country world has gone to hell in a hand basket because we don’t pray in school.

I am neither a sociologist nor an expert in criminal behavior. Yet I have a feeling that if children are taught (and enforced by example) respectfulness, compassion, and love, that whether this is taught because of a religious belief or just because it is the proper thing to do, that then your children will grow up to do the right things.


Giving Thanks to the Right People

November 21, 2007

I have commented about this before on another blog, but never written a post of my own concerning it.

On Monday we had our Thanksgiving lunch at work.  Before we ate the president of the company did a prayer thanking God for our food and friendships.  This has also often happened when my wife and I go to a cookout or dinner at her sister’s house with a large group of religious people.

Every time this happens, I always wonder why everyone thanks God and not the people that actually allowed the food to be sitting there in front of us? 

We should be thanking the farmers for the turkeys and vegetables.  My grandparents had a farm before I was born, and though I never visited it, I heard enough stories from them and my father that I knew farming was not the greatest job around.  I can only imagine the conditions of being a poultry worker.  I for one thank them, I know I wouldn’t want that job, but I do want to eat turkey.

Then there are the workers at the canning/frozen food factories.  Probably not as difficult a job as a farmer or poultry worker, but still thankless in the big scheme of things.  I have worked in a factory before and can attest this is true.

What about the truck drivers getting the food to my grocer?  That’s another job, that me sitting in my cubicle, I know I wouldn’t want to do.  I beg out of a 5 hour drive to Lubbock so I can take a plane there instead; I know I couldn’t handle driving for a living.

And speaking of the grocer, I remember a time when nearly every store was closed on Thanksgiving except the 7-11′s.  now nearly every grocery store is open.  Can’t forget about the almighty dollar, so those in retail don’t get the holiday off like the majority of us do.  And don’t forget even if you are a retailer that gets Thursday off, chances are you are getting up at the butt-crack of dawn to go to work for Black Friday.  That almighty dollar again.  I think we know another god this country worships. 

I am sure there are plenty more thankless jobs out there that help get my turkey and all the trimming to my table every Thanksgiving.  So if you are like me and get caught into giving thanks to an imaginary being, do what I do, and silently think of all of those people and thank them and hope they are able to enjoy their holiday as much as you do.  And even if you are religious, you should still give thanks to the right people as well as the god you believe in.


Religion and Home Schooling

October 25, 2007

 

My wife was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness in the 1980′s and ’90′s.  Her mother was very strict about it.  She would pull my wife and her siblings out of school during ANY days that celebrated any pagan or “worldly” holidays, including Halloween, Christmas, Easter, and Valentine’s day.  No costume parties, birthday parties, Christmas presents, holiday cookies, valentine’s day cards, etc., etc.  As could be expected in a school environment, she eventually got labeled as an outsider, being different or weird.  She never had any true friends outside of her family.

Because my wife didn’t want our children to go what she went through, when our children were old enough to begin school, she decided she wanted to home school our kids.  I hated the idea from the beginning, but she was passionate about it and I eventually relented.  So my eldest son and daughter were homeschooled for a couple of years, my son up until 2nd grade and my daughter up until the 1st grade.  She finally decided to let them go because the kids wanted to go.  Plus, and props to you that stumble across this and homeschool your kids, it is a lot of work.

The main thing I want to discuss is why would one want to home school?  When you do some searches there are really three main reasons I can find: Religion, Violence/drugs, and the parents belief they can teach better than the teachers.

I can teach my kids better than teachers in the public schools

In some schools and situations this may be true.  I live in one of the poorest cities in the US, which means low property values, not as much property taxes collected (although we do have one of the highest property taxes percentage wise, because of the low property values), thus good teachers are often going to go elsewhere for more money.  I live in a border city next to Mexico, so a large percentage of the incoming kindergarten students do not even speak English, which increases the teaching burden even more.  Yet so far, all of the teachers my two kids have had the past three years have been very good at both teaching and communicating what my wife and I must do to help our children progress.  In three years, my son had one C on his first report card upon making the transition from home-school to public school, and after that has had nothing but A’s and B’s.  My daughter has never had lower than a B at this point.  My wife, an ardent home school proponent 5 years ago, now thinks it was a big mistake to hold our kids back the first three years at home.

If someone lives in an area where the student to teacher ratio is low, the school district they are in is not up to par, and they have a stay at home parent that has the ability and desire to teach their kids, I can see some benefit.  But I have a feeling those scenarios are a low percentage of the actual home schoolers.

Too Much Violence and Drugs in Schools

Once again, there are probably schools in some areas of the country where this is factual.  Overall the vast majority of schools are safe.  Are there issues with peer pressure, drugs and violence?  Yes.  They were there 25 years ago when I was in school.  In my opinion you can coddle a child too much, and when they get older they are going to be naive to the real world.  Because guess what, there are drugs and violence out there too.  If they are not prepared to say “No” to peer pressure and the like at 12-17 years of age, what do you think is going to happen when they go to college or get a job after high school?

Religion

My wife’s reasons were the feared prejudice our kids may receive as part of their religion, as JW’s beliefs are not even the normal Christian beliefs, so they would not fit in.  There is some validity there, but whether our kids went to a public school or not they are/were eventually going to get treated differently anyway if they go this route spiritually.  Is it better or worse to receive these discrimination when younger so you get used to them or when you are older and ill-prepared to go into the real world?  I do not have the answer, but I can say my wife made what I think is a great decision and was not nearly as demanding on our kids as her mother was to her.  She does not pull out the kids on Christmas parties or Valentine’s day.  She uses me as the scapegoat but I know that she actually feels she was left out of a lot because of the way she was raised.

The other religious based reason is probably the most common reason many families home school.  They want their kids exposed to the biblical teachings rather than what US schools teach.  Don’t want those teachers bringing up the fact we evolved from apes and the earth is billions of years old now do we?  But more important than that is kids interacting with other kids from different backgrounds and religions and realizing that what their parents have taught them may not be 100% true.  An ambitious child may just start reading a little and learning some things on their own.

If the top two reasons were the REAL reasons some parents home schooled then I would understand more.  These are the top three reasons people say they home school, yet 91% of the people home schooled are religious, and more than twice as many home schooler classify themselves as evangelical Christians compared to the general population.  72% of home schoolers polled cited “to provide religious or moral instruction” as an important reason for it as well.  This tells me that the main reason is really religion.

Many of the JW’s my wife knows home school and the congregation encourages it.  I cannot speak for other religions, but going to sites like this one you can tell they like the idea of home schooling also.  The answer to why the encouraged home schooling is obvious.  JW’s, for example, are forbidden to even read apostate material and many of their articles hint that continuing education is overrated.  People who get educated tend to start to question things, dont you know? 

Since home schooling has only recently started this big boom, it is difficult to find any long term repercussions at this point.  As far as the education part of it goes, they are probably getting just as good an education.  The websites promoting home schooling will of course point out that kids that are home schooled get higher scores on the national tests.  This is true but you have to account for the fact that all of the kids home schooled both want to be educated and have parents that want them to be educated.  A lot of scores on national tests are from kids that could not be home schooled even if they wanted to as they are in single parent homes or double working parents, who basically use school as a baby sitter.  If you compared home schooled kids to kids that have parents actively involved in their public education I bet the public school kids are equal if not better than the home schooled ones.  Not to mention I believe they will be better prepared for the real world once they have to go into it.


My Life Has Taken Over + Meme

October 16, 2007

Readers of my blog have probably noticed I haven’t been around much.  Things have gotten extremely busy for me and I have not had the time to my previously normal twice weekly postings.  I do check in and read my favorites, but I just haven’t been able to write lately.  As any blogger knows, it can be time consuming, and writing articles about atheism, creationism, evolution, and religion can take some work.  I tend to be at least a little meticulous about making sure I at least appear to know what I am discussing, and finding the time to research to write a good post has been unavailable lately due to an increased workload and having two school kids in extracurricular activities (and a hyperactive 18 month old) have left me exhausted.

Evanescent tagged me with the latest meme going around, and even though I am late to this particular party I will give mine.  Hopefully this will light a little fire under my butt to be sure I at least get back up to weekly posts.  :)

When I started my blog I had no intentions of discussing atheism, religion, and my wife’s beliefs.  It just kind of ended up that way as you can see below:

1.  At first I tried to be cute and all of my titles were lyrics from songs, mostly heavy metal but I mixed in a Beatles tune.  My first post on religion and atheism was really my 5th or 6th overall and it was titled The Orders Came From High Above They Say.  Reading it now, it really is a very simple post, but keep in mind I had not read any blogs concerning atheism at this point–I didn’t even know that world existed.  I was just writing random thoughts.  The key to this post and why it was important was I used wordpress’ tags.  After I published that post I did a few searches with my own tags and found blogs like de-conversion (then agnosticatheism), The Friendly Athiest, and Evanescent.  Suddenly I realized that there were many others that were writing about atheism.

2.  After a few weeks of reading dozens of atheism blogs and posting a few of my own, I made the post That’s How I Got Where I Am.  Here I went into how I became an atheist in my youth because I actually read the bible trying to understand it’s mysteries.  Rereading this post you can see I have a few ideas that will come up in later posts.  This particular article made it into the 3rd The Humanist Symposium.  This was my first atheism post to start receiving a good number of hits and I realized I had an audience.

3.  My blog had now “evolved” into an actual atheism blog.  While I enjoy reading a lot of the more militant atheism blogs as the debates are entertaining, I knew my style of writing wouldn’t be a good fit for that type of blog.  I decided to write a lot about my relationship with my Jehovah’s Witness wife and how we cope with our differences in belief.  I feel as if there are a lot of blog writers out there that have better biblical and science knowledge than myself, and I knew I would write better about what I know.  A few posts into this decision to write about myself and my wife and I wrote A Blood Problem.  This post gets a number of hits every week, I am assuming from someone wondering why JW’s don’t accept blood transfusions.  Hopefully that article has been at least a little helpful.

4.  Now I was fully enveloped in the atheism blogosphere.  I actually was becoming quite addicted, reading and commenting on other blogs and writing my own.  I started paying attention to politicians views on religion, and researched more on religion and history since I had been in college over 20 years ago.  On July 1 a murder-suicide happened in my city, and it was pretty big news as the perpetrator was a prominant dentist in town.  On July 3, my local newspaper ran an article claiming the perpetrator was a “good Christian.”  I read this article at lunch and then wrote Dentist Found Slain With Wife Was a Good Christian, which was also the headline in the paper.  No other article that I have written to this point gets as many hits as this one.  The day I wrote it and the day after my hits spiked 1000%.  I still get 35-30 google searches weekly on this article and local individuals that knew the parties involved have commented as recently as last week.  While the comments have now spiraled into a different topic, I think the original concept of why I wrote it, that labeling people based upon their supposed religious beliefs instead of their actions, stands up very well.

5.  I haven’t written a post in a few weeks, but my last real post, My Awakening, pretty much sums up where I am at this point.  I have 3 posts halfway written that I will get out there soon, including my post on Julian, for those in suspense.  ;)

An interesting sidenote that I hope I will continue to discuss over the next year or so.  I think my wife is gradually realizing the faults of Jehovah’s Witnesses and religion in general.  I cannot say for sure, because she has a hard time talking about it, but I can tell you that she has went to only one meeting (sermon) since July, and previously she would go weekly plus go to at least one bible study a week.  My children have only went when they have stayed the night over at their cousins, which has been maybe twice.  I do not know for certain if she will stay this route.  I am not trying to influence her as I want the decision to be hers.  But I can tell something clicked in her a couple of months ago, and I am hoping we have another free thinker on our hands eventually.

That’s all for now, and I will try to get back to my own posting and commenting.  I won’t forward this meme as the blogs I read most have already been tagged.


Running Behind On My Literati

September 15, 2007

I am not quite finished with Julian.  Life has gotten busy on me but I should have it finished by tomorrow, Monday at the latest.  I could give you the excuse that my local Barnes & Noble didn’t have it and then I ordered it online (which is true) but I still should have have had it done.  Like tobe at Load of Bright, I apologize to my fellow Non-believing literati.  I already have a good idea of what I am going to write, and hope to have my review/essay up early this coming week.


My Awakening

September 11, 2007

I have been an atheist for 100% of my adult life.  I am not sure how to count my youth and teen years.  I went to church fairly regularly and bible school in the summers from ages 6-10 or so.  And then, my parents got busy with life and raising four kids, and my mom quit going on Sundays.  I got a rejuvenation of sorts between the ages or 13-15, only to eventually do some research and decide the bible just had too many inconsistancies, and then it was over.  I made up my mind that God doesn’t exist and moved on.

For the past 25 years or so, I have just lived my life, not really caring if others want to believe in God, Buddha, Allah, or whomever.  Yet I did continue to have a passive interest in ancient history, and even took elective classes in college in the subject.  And while I never advertised my beliefs, if someone wanted to have a good discussion I was always up for it.  Along the way I am sure I lost a couple of promising relationships because of my beliefs, and then ironically, as regular readers know, I married possibly the most religious person I ever even dated.  Even after marrying a devout theist, I still continued to live and let live–what’s the harm in using a book to teach children morals?  Sure any child doing a little research can find problems with the Noah story as they do with the Santa story, but we tell them Noah did exist and the world did have a massive flood even though evidence shows different. 

Then along comes the internet, and now you can research and find opinions of thousands of people about religion, atheism, and the bible.  As some know, when I started this blog, it was just a blog about life in general, a diary of sorts.  And then I did a post about my atheistic beliefs and did tag search and found hundreds of other bloggers with similar beliefs as mine.  And gradually my belief system is changing.  Not my belief (or non-belief if you prefer) in god, but in how religions should be perceived.

I now pay attention to religion, where before I didn’t really care.  I find myself thinking about religion more than I ever have in my life.  I read articles about it.  I eavesdrop when I hear people discussing church.  I marvel at the new million dollar churches in my neighborhood.  I wonder what our local and national government is going to do to pander to the religious right.  And this is someone who has on more than one occasion punched the Republican ticket in the booth!

So, what is the next step?  To be honest, I am not sure.  One thing is for certain, the more blogs that are out there discussing these things, then the more likely someone googling Noah’s Ark will come across one of us.  And then they get to reading.  Sure, if they are a indoctrined devout theist, nothing will probably change.  But we can show the doubting holiday worshippers and agnostics that there are thousands of people out there just like them.  And maybe 30 years from now I can look back at this blog and say I was in at the beginning.  Or my kids can use this at the insanity hearings before they put me away.


Are You Lonely?

August 31, 2007

This is an advertisement in my local paper today.  I am tempted just to post this and nothing else, but I will comment.

I know it’s just an ad, and six months ago I would never have even looked at it.  But I read it, and the first thing that popped into my mind was loneliness is not a disease.  After a little deeper thought, I started to wonder, who is this church’s target and why?  This is one of the largest churches in town, yet they have to proscelytize this way? 

” …showing up in teenagers, singles, widows, just about anyone whose lives it can slowly destroy”

This just seems to target, for a lack of better words, the weak.  A person who may be more susceptable to believing in a mythical being.  If a person is indoctrinated early like my wife, it becomes very difficult for them not to believe, so the churches already have them.   Who else to target?  I know!  A widow or a single person feeling alone!  Yeah, write an ad, get on it! 

I guess I have just turned into a cynic.

And I know HeIsSailing posted another of this same churches ads on one of his articles on de-conversion that basically used an attractive woman to get new members but in my brief search over there I couldn’t find it.  If anyone knows the post please link it back.


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